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  • Monday, February 14, 2022 - 5:15pm to 6:30pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion, on the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library

Please join us for the next meeting of the Workshop in the History of Material Texts, which will take place on February 14th at 5:15 PM Eastern Time.

We will be returning to the Class of 1978 Pavilion, on the sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library.

This week, Aylin Malcolm (Penn) will give a talk entitled "Revolutionary Science: Movable Books and the Medieval Universe."

Aylin writes:

Movable parts such as tabs, wheels, and flaps were common components of premodern scientific texts. These features could serve as participatory pedagogical tools, calculating devices, or inexpensive alternatives to instruments such as the astrolabe. In this talk, I review a range of movable devices from the later Middle Ages, including their applications in cosmography, medicine, and the computation of the date of Easter. Focusing on astronomical volvelles, I then develop an ecological reading of these rotating discs, which encouraged readers to relate to the world around them in several complementary ways. Movable books could facilitate readers’ efforts to conceptualize their positions in the universe, an important aspect of premodern knowledge practices. Yet volvelles also call attention to the materiality of the texts in which they appear, and their susceptibility to damage visually suggests the impact of human actions. Often compared to modern apps, these devices therefore offer lessons for engaging with today’s media landscapes and their unseen material infrastructures.

Aylin Malcolm is a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania and the 2021–22 Brizdle-Schoenberg Fellow in the History of Material Texts. Aylin's research interests include poetry and zoology in medieval England, the history of ecological crisis, and premodern gender studies. Aylin held a graduate fellowship at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies in 2019, during which they worked on medieval astronomical diagrams and their afterlives in digital spaces.

In order to attend the Workshop in person, you must be fully vaccinated. When entering the Library, Penn-affiliated visitors must show a green PennOpen PassNon-Penn affiliated visitors must show a green pass from the PennOpen Campus system. Here are instructions for using the system:

  • Before arriving on campus, complete your vaccination, symptom, and exposure check at
  • You will receive a green pass when you report your fully vaccinated status, no symptoms, no recent contact with someone who may have COVID-19, and no recent positive test.
  • Show your green pass at the entrance to the library.

Masks must be worn at all times during the seminar. Unfortunately, we will not be able to dine together after the seminar for the time being.